Monday, July 11, 2011

An Evening With Joe Henderson

Amsterdam, Holland. Bimhuis Circa 1985.
this was one of the great moments and days in my life. Can't recall the exact day.
I believe it was a Saturday and Joe Henderson was playing with Joanne Brackeen on piano, Keith Kilgo on Drums, and maybe the expatriate Wilbur Little on Bass.

Having been one of my alltime favorite Saxophonists; numero 2 for me behind Coltrane, I wasn't going to miss a night hearing Joe. At the time I was living in Amsterdam not far from the Bimhuis which is near the center of Amsterdam. I had played there several times with FraFra Sound (an Afro-Jazz group composed of Surinamese,Dutch and American musicians), and even had the chance to substitute for the wonderful saxophonist Courtney Pines at the Bimhuis when he was making his debut as a young lion from England.

Joe's set of course was blazing, Joanne's ethereal forays and lush voicings were a perfect complement to Joe Henderson's saxophone gymnastics...playing across the bar line, rhythmic patterns and just incomparable technique.

The biggest surprise was seeing Keith Kilgo on drums. He had graduated from Howard by the time I got there in 1975 and was making a name for himself with Donald Byrd and the BlackByrds.

Keith Kilgo more than held his own that night and after the gig I rushed backstage to congratulate him and renew our acquaintance. He was as surprised to see me as I him.
He introduced me to the band, and everybody was warm and gracious especially Joe.
Keith then invited me to come over to the suite were they were staying since they had a day or two lay over. The hotel suite had a kitchen as well and Keith had planned to cook chili for the group the next day. Music, vittles and Joe, cmon what aspiring saxophonist could turn that down.

I arrived promptly in the afternoon. We talked shop for awhile and I played a couple tunes on saxophone to get some critique from Joe. He liked my ideas and reminded me to keep working at mastering the entire instrument, especially the bottom of my horn.

I will never forget his kindness and moreover his intellect. I remember him saying that when he was coming up, he made cats nervous, cause he was a saxophone terrorist.
This was years before the term was used infamously. This reminds me also of the late trumpeter Webster Young who really pushed me to study Joe's solos and compositions.

I will always cherish you Joe Henderson and Webster Young. RIP